I try to get to the three closest game conventions each year as they are the best places to interact with most of my oldest friends, meet new ones, and light my creative fires all in one very entertaining weekend. This time was no exception at DundraCon 2016 (San Ramon, Ca) with the highlight being all the Frostgrave we played. For those who may not have heard of it, Frostgrave by Osprey Games is a fantasy skirmish game in which players run a wizard and their band of adventurers seeking the arcane knowledge and treasures of an ancient ruined city (think Mordheim) that was destroyed in an icy, magic cataclysm. It is supposed to be frozen and snow covered but none of my terrain is so I figure there is a brief thaw in the neighborhood. I was delighted to break out long neglected Mordheim terrain and share figures from my also long neglected Role Playing Miniatures collection. Learning a fun new game was bonus.
One table had two gangs fighting it out over the treasures while a giant worm burrowed around under them. Eventually it burst out and much mayhem ensued. When we get together everyone pools their miniatures and terrain, especially the terrain. We all have little projects, okay, some of us have numerous projects that might not fill a three foot square battlefield but added up really look great. Plus I’ll jump at any chance to use the Abbey AronBC built based on a scenario in an old Citadel Journal. This time he had brought a figure from our ancient youth, a giant millipede and, like myself, he was happy to have it get table time.
I was ecstatic to game with so many of the beautiful Hasslefree Miniatures I had painted simply because I loved them. Now they had names and missions. Just to ice the cake, now I really need to paint three from the Unpainted Box to round out the gang. Who knew I’d need a thief? The game uses opposed rolls with twenty sided dice for spell casting and combat. If the caster/attacker rolls higher the number they rolled is also the damage caused. My first game started out well when I rolled a twenty on a twenty sided die to cast Elemental Bolt at my opponent’s wizard who happened to be in the open from where my wizard stood. Modifiers, armor figured out and BOOM! One dead wizard on turn two. We decided to set up and start again because it was about to get very one sided and to have that happen when one is focused on learning a new game seems ridiculous. Besides, there’s no fun in that.
The second game was a closer run thing with both of us hugging terrain and taking shots where we could. The silent tower and it’s connecting buildings are not only a major objective but also a magic null zone so the wizards were quite limited. A couple of henchmen were taken down here and there but it ended with both wizards deciding discretion was the better part of valor and backed away warily as the gangs hauled in their swag.
One of the things I really like about the game is the easy campaign aspect. It was always my favorite part of Mordheim and Necromunda as well because it encourages me to paint miniatures I might not get to as well as creating character and narrative. In this case not only did we use my wild boars, bear, and familiars but the Stone Mountain troll finally found a game use, granted my opponent used Wind Blast to immediately push him back off the table but he got on the table. It also moved the resin toads I’d picked up to the painting table.
So, a fun system that was much easier to learn than I thought it would be. The campaign book, Thaw of the Lich Lord looks very entertaining not to mention creatively inspiring. Now I have a list of old figures and projects to dig out and dust off. Going to to be making buildings, ladders, and bridges for a while.
One of my favorite parts of KublaCon is the painting area set up just outside the dealers room on the edge of the foyer. I really like the location. Something about being tucked under the stairs adds to the industrious feeling, the Paint and Take tables being almost always full certainly doesn’t hurt either. Will really have to get photos of some of the hard working apprentice painters next year. It is inspiring to see so many people of all ages tucking in and trying their hands at minis painting as well as artists sharing their skills.
Friday found me entering the first of the Speed Painting contests as I was there and I like to maximize my opportunities to get into the final round. Always a fun way to spend time with creative people as we all have the same figure, the same paints, and the same lousy brushes. Other than the final round one never knows what figure will be handed out. If one places first, second, or third in any early contests then they can sign up for the Masters Round held Sunday night.
My first piece was a Rivet Wars figure I had never seen before. I don’t play the game but am vaguely aware of the visuals. Since the figure came with a stat card showing this color scheme I decided it was easier to match what I saw rather than create something from scratch. Fortunately I had just enough time to add the tartan to the kilt and crowns to the ammo belt. I think those were some of the details that took it over the top, placing first in the round. That meant I was eligible for the final one Sunday night. Now, there is no rule saying one can’t enter multiple times but once I’ve earned a spot in the final contest I’m done entering qualifying rounds. I’ve got games to play and friends to catch up with after all.
So this year’s mascot is a Dwarf Cleric version of Kubla and as has become tradition, the final round’s figure is that year’s Kubla mini. While I love dwarfs he is a VERY small figure whose finest detail is difficult for me to discern with my fifty year old eyes and the brushes we have aren’t very good. Since one isn’t allowed to use an Opti-visor in the Speed Painting competition it is obviously becoming a young person’s game. I will keep doing my best to represent the oldsters in the painting community but only time will tell how much longer I will last. While I was able to do some nice, basic color blending as well as pick out some fine detail there was a gem on his forehead I couldn’t even see and I was disappointed in my handling of the mace head. It is supposed to be a ten sided die but I just went with a straight (boring) metalic scheme. My hard work and patience did pay off as I won the Silver Medal in the final round for the second year running. The winner did a great job on his figure, painting the tiny jewel on his helmet and making the weapon look like the head was made out of a sapphire. I felt fortunate to be right behind him in second place as the rest of the field were quite good. That’s what happens when twelve winners sit down together I guess.
Next was the actual KublaCon Painting Competition 2015. I find the name to be a little misleading as it is really more of a miniatures painting Exhibition. Each entry is judged on it’s own merit, whether it meets certain criteria and awarded a medal if it reaches them. If five painters enter pieces that earn enough points to qualify as Silver then all five painters win Silver Awards or badges in the case of the Draconic Awards. This year saw KublaCon’s volunteers teaming up with the Draconic Awards adding yet more national cred to our little local convention. We are already a qualifier for the Crystal Brush competition so this seems a logical next step. Before I go any further I’d like to take a moment to thank the previously mentioned volunteers. The Painting area is hugely successful every year due in no small part to the excellent people who give their time and talents over the weekend. A huge Shout Out and hearty thanks to Wayne, Meredith, and all their volunteers for running a wonderful part of KublaCon.
I have mentioned the Beholder miniature from Reaper Bones in an earlier post. I love the sculpt and despite having no real use for him in any games I currently play, he was the first one out of the rewards I painted. His face is just so expressive and the details fun to paint that I wanted to show him off. I also think he came out quite well for squishy plastic. Turns out I was right and he earned a Silver. Maybe it was his hypnogaze.
Maelee, by Bombshell Babes is another figure with an expressive face who was fun to paint. Honestly, I find the majority of them to be entertaining and well sculpted. I coupled her with a Malifaux base because her massive wrench needed some massive pipes. I was delighted, upon entering her, to discover that there is a limited edition, alternative sculpt of Maelee battling robots. The three winners of the Final Speed Painting Round each won a limited edition figure from various manufacturer and first place was the alternate Maelee. As luck would have it he really preferred the resin vampire thing I had and we happily swapped. Thanks, Jordan! Back to this Maelee and my luck held out landing her a Silver despite her refusal to wash up before the competition.
My fondness for dwarfs is no surprise to any who know me and when they are mounted and highly mobile it’s just bonus. I showed pictures of my Berserker Lord on Brock in an earlier post but I enjoyed painting both him and the base so much I wanted to show him at KublaCon. I think it was the old school mushrooms I made out of milliput and toothpicks that tipped him to Draconian Gold.
Since I’ve just had a ball assembling and painting unit bases for Mantic’s Kings Of War I wanted to show off a couple of them. Besides being my current favorite, the Hasslefree Bulwarkers unit are an attractive grouping, carefully painted, and all those hand drilled spearheads and dwarf hands deserved to be in a display case at least once. The decorative Scibor bits really add a sense of narrative as well. So pleased when they won a gold as after the first two silvers I was worried nothing else placed because I’ve been a solid bronze and silver winner for years. Well I needn’t have worried.
Just like the Bulwarkers, the second edition Bugman’s Rangers are some of my favorite minis, ever. It was my college room mate’s paint job, with a tiny stein on each shield, on this unit that caught my imagination and made me not only want to play Warhammer but collect my own dwarfs. The Oldhammer, chunky stunties of the eighties are so different from Kev White’s anatomically logical work that I wanted to show something from both examples. I was floored when they also won Gold.
Okay, Slayer Girl, as I’ve come to think of this female slayer by Hasslefree is a wonderful sculpt that (I even have the scifi version of) has been off and on the painting table for over a year. As soon as I’d decide on one part of her I’d run into the massive force that is my own indecision on the next part. Once a section was done something would happen and she would get chipped or spilled on so I kept starting and stopping her. When everything was fixed I couldn’t decide on the tattoos. Finally, right before the con and after a base swap I felt she was finished. I have struggled with flesh tones and worked to get hers right. The miniature really inspired me to keep coming back to make things better, to push my comfort zone and work on new techniques, not accept “good enough” like she were a bulk trooper. It is also helpful to have Necron99 pointing out the obvious when I’m too close to see it (the previously mentioned base swap for example). Truthfully, I was really hoping she would place and felt she was my best chance for maybe a gold this year. Turned out she was one of four golds but she came in third in the Journeyman Class. Which is truly humbling because there were amazing pieces this year done by talented painters that I was just proud to be showing with so to place at all was more than I had even considered. To top it off, I won a full set of twenty-four Militiare transparent paints. Talk about exceeding any and all expectations.
So, I always said if was able to win another gold, especially in Single Miniature, I would move up to Masters Class the next year. When one enters six pieces, wins two silver and four gold then it is time to run with the big dogs or as Necron99 puts it,”enter the wasteland of no trophies”. Honestly, I’m so stunned by this year’s amazing results I’m sure the buzz will carry me through a few years of hoping for Bronze in future. Until then I have skills to sharpen, pigments to master, bases to create, and an airbrush to dig out of my garage because I know as long as I keep trying to learn, to improve, I will keep loving this art form. Hope to see you all at the KublaCon painting cases next year.
The Khan of Cons
I recently attended KublaCon2015 in Burlingame, CA. It is my favorite game convention and I try to attend every year. Family friendly, diverse crowd of attendees, every kind of game one can think of (many that you can’t), wonderful staff, amazing painting area, and all in a rather nice hotel (Burlingame Hyatt). About the only complaint I can make is the same with most conventions, the food is way over priced and not very tasty (or healthy for that matter). Pretty minor negative considering everything that goes into one of these events and there’s a grill and burrito place right across the street. The Miniatures Painting Competition is really more of an exhibition but I’ll discuss that more in the next post. This is about some of the miniature games.
The first thing I saw when I walked into the minis hall was a table covered with tiny oared vessels and counters. Fleets and their crews were being assembled by Thomas (http://www.skullandcrown.blogspot.com/) and Stan whom Tom had apparently chained to the table and put to work. They were organizing ships and crew counters for the big battle between Venice and the Ottoman Empire the following day.
The first pictures are several games I didn’t play in but liked the look of. Saw a couple of friends playing Star Wars Armada and really liked the ships. Being fully painted right out of the box is certainly a major plus and Star Wars space ships look cool. I’ll have to try it out some time just to see what all the little dials are for. Next is a historical war game named Hell or High Water that was being Beta tested with a scenario called The Sands of Taman Rassat. I always love the table this group sets up, being partial to Egyptian ruins.
Speaking of tables I love, Mike has always been an artist in everything he does from minis to terrain to character sheets and for this he adapted the Conan Board Game rules and had players running classic heroes from Conan to Elric. The heroes worked through several battles before arriving at the huge night time table.
I understand that Elric cut a swath through just about everything and everybody. Not surprising really, vampiric sword and all.
The first miniatures game I played in, later on, was The Battle of New Orleans using Sharpe’s Practice rules and run by Necron99 so I knew the table and miniatures would look great. Honestly, if the toys are nice it just seems more fun to me. Captain Sharpe (of the classic BBC show Sharpe’s Rifles) had replaced one of the historical British officers so it was anyone’s guess what the outcome would be. Fortunately there were no beautifully sultry rebel leaders to aid him this time. The Americans might have a chance.
The British troops were trying to get to the canal where they could begin building a temporary bridge and take the ramparts on the other side. The Americans, on the other hand, were trying to stop all of that from happening but from behind the relative safety of said ramparts. I knew where I would rather be and so joined Jackson on the right flank of the American line.
The Sharpe’s Practice system uses cards to randomly determine which unit or leader will go next as well as when the turn will end. This makes for some frustrating combinations with the British officers getting the first four activations four turns in a row at one point. While one may be tempted to think the Americans will make it up later there is the problem of the turn ending card turning up before that happens. True to history, the Scottish troops marched forward through the American fire.
The Americans were able to put some Shock points on the skirmishers and the Scottish regiments. Of course they were distracted putting out the fire started in the cannon emplacement by the shooting of Sharpe’s Rifles. They then hid from fire in the smoke from those fires making way for the heavies coming up behind them. Guess that’s why they’re the chosen men. True to the TV show, one of the British commanders suddenly saw the merits of guarding the rear and brought a regiment of red coats with him. Fortunately for the attackers the British commander was able to intercept the unit and dismiss the officer from command before the entire regiment left the field.
As the British finished their bridge the pirates manning the gun were finally able to use their rare activations for more than fire fighting and reloaded the cannons. As the first regiment of red coats charged across La Fitte was able to light the fuse with his cigar tipping the balance of the combat and wiping out a chunk of the unit. Just to prove his worth the French privateer then bested Sharpe in a personal challenge sending the wounded captain sliding into the mud of the canal’s edge. It was the second unit across that broke the pirates and held a spot on the ramparts. That activated the American cavalry to enter the board beginning a drawn out firefight. In the end the British didn’t have enough banners left alive to fulfill their victory conditions but since they had done far better than their historical counterparts the GM declared it a moral victory. In Napoleonic era adventures it pays to have Sean Bean on your side.
Typical of me, I thought Wooden Wars was running at noon on Saturday rather than ending then. I realized the error of my ways when I went downstairs to find Thomas cleaning up the last of the lovely wooden soldiers while chatting amiably with con attendees. I was determined to play in his Galleys, Guns, and Glory game Sunday morning. Having seen all the toys being assembled the day before as well as watching Thomas paint crew tokens I was ready for the beautiful ships covering the blue table. Despite being officially signed up for the game I opted to run some of Stanley’s ships on the far right flank of the Venetian line. This would allow more new folks (I’m a long time fan of Tom’s work all the way back to Pre-Pirates! days) and, even better, I could hang out with Stan (who appeared to have been released from painting servitude) and catch up with him. Besides, he had a Hotwheels van to give me so double score!
Not as huge as Lepanto the battle was still an impressive array of colorful ships. Some of the players had played in Tom’s games before, others were new but all were excited to get started as Thomas reviewed a little history as well as the simplicity of the rules. Besides, the toys are just so beautiful, rigged and all, that one can’t help but squat down next to the table for better effect.
Following Stan’s lead, he has played before after all, we closed in on the enemy with the intention of sinking two and capturing the third of the three facing us.
We held our fire until we had closed to medium range to increase accuracy and damage. Knowing these cannons took ages to reload in real life I figured those might be our last shots. Anything more would be a bonus. By concentrating fire and Stan rolling better than I we were able to sink an Ottoman galliot right away. We then prepared to close the distance and readied our marines for boarding action (figuratively speaking). We were fortunate that our targets were more focused on supporting the efforts of the Turkish center rather than our ships bearing down on them. Stanley even managed to roll well enough to reload his guns.
While much of the Venetian force was struggled, Stan and I swept forward, raked the enemies decks with crew killing grapeshot before taking our first trophy ship. Again, thanks to Stan’s excellent rolling, we managed to reload both of our smaller ships before sinking the last Ottoman galley facing us. Leaving just enough crew aboard the captured vessel to sail it home we turned our unscathed, fully crewed fighting vessels to face the center and saw the sea afloat with damaged targets. At this point Thomas called it an Ottoman victory as they had crushed our left flank and were in a stronger position in the center. Stanley and I both felt we could have tipped that fight, being one move from at least two more easy captures but decided to bask in our accomplishments. Next fight I want my own fleet so I better get to work painting the ship I already own. As with almost all the rules Tom writes, I found the system easy to grasp, logical in how it represents combat and moving, and a lot of furious fun to play. It also helps that it was a really entertaining group playing.
I’ll close my report with a picture taken during Mike’s climatic Conan battle. It shows that Thomas is still the king of multitasking, painting crew markers while playing in the scenario. I swear the only thing he doesn’t do better than the rest of us is sleep. That is one skill I still possess in massive quantities. Next post will address my Painting Competition experiences.